In most football offseasons, we might see a single player head to South Bend as a Notre Dame transfer. Someone like Cody Riggs, or Avery Sebastian – a grad transfer with a single year left and something to prove. This offseason the Irish have proven much more active in the transfer market than at any time in recent memory, and with some very interesting players. As a notorious Duke once said after trading places himself, “Mortimer, we’re back in business!”
The Cast of Characters
Notre Dame picked up three transfers this offseason:
- Freddy Canteen, WR, a junior grad transfer from Michigan
- Cam Smith, WR, a senior grad transfer from Arizona State
- Alohi Gilman, S, a freshman transfer from the Naval Academy
Canteen and Smith bolster a position group that seemingly had plenty of talented bodies already, but little experience. Gilman, on the other hand, has already shown real ability at a position of desperate need.
WR Freddy Canteen
As a recruit, the 247 Composite had Canteen ranked as the #298 player nationally and logged a 4.43 40 yard dash. He enrolled early at Michigan and made an instant impact in 2014 spring ball, drawing rave reviews and generally making more of an impression than top 100 classmate Drake Harris. That performance didn’t translate to the fall, though, and by the time the next spring rolled around with Jim Harbaugh in town Canteen lost his mojo.
He never seemed to connect with Harbaugh, and then he struggled with a shoulder injury that buried him permanently in Ann Arbor. According to his high school coach, he spent about six months with a diagnosis of a separated shoulder that eventually was re-diagnosed as a torn labrum that required surgery. His legs never left him, but he wasn’t healthy enough to get on the field.
He stayed on track academically, though, and earned his degree as a junior. As such, he’s a grad transfer with two years of eligibility left, which could be very helpful. He’s also not unfamiliar with several players on the Irish roster – in high school, he played against Brandon Wimbush, Liam Eichenberg, Jimmy Byrne, and Shaun Crawford.
So what does all that mean? It’s hard to say how much production to expect from Canteen; he’s fast and showed flashes, but he had just six receptions in his three seasons at Michigan. By all accounts he’s a good guy, though, and the Irish have two years to figure out what he has. This is a low-risk, high-reward move for Canteen and Notre Dame.
WR Cameron Smith
Smith is the second Cameron from Coppell, Texas to head to Notre Dame, joining everyone’s favorite Ridiculously Photogenic Running Back. The recruiting services didn’t think much of him, as he checked into the Composite at #1,392 overall, but he showed some solid production at Arizona State before going down with a significant knee injury in 2015. As a sophomore in 2014, Smith logged 41 catches for 596 yards and six scores, one of which came in the win over Notre Dame that really knocked the wheels off that season for the Irish. He missed all of 2015 with that injury, then spent 2016 trying to round back into form.
Unlike Canteen, Smith is a traditional grad transfer, meaning he has just 2017 left. He played for Chip Long and Del Alexander in Tempe, so his learning curve for the new Notre Dame offense should be essentially zero. He graduated cum laude from Arizona State with an English degree, and is considered a quiet, solid locker room guy. If he can regain his 2014 form, he could be a steal and a real contributor to the offense. If he can’t, no harm, no foul, and he’ll likely at least help the rest of the receiving corps learn the ropes of the new offense. Like Canteen, he’s a low-risk, high-reward prospect.
S Alohi Gilman
And now for the headliner… Canteen and Smith, as noted, are both essentially zero-risk additions to the roster. However, they both play a position that has lots of bodies, they both have a history of injury, and they both have limited eligibility left. Gilman, on the other hand, plays a position of desperate need, has shown substantial ability already, and will have three years of eligibility left. To give you a sense of how unusual this is, I believe Alohi is the first non-graduate Notre Dame transfer student since Larry Moriarty moved to South Bend from Santa Barbara City College in 1980. Yeah.
As a true freshman last year, Gilman was Navy’s second-leading tackler, with 76 stops – 12 of which came against Notre Dame. He also record five tackles for loss, five passes broken up, and one forced fumble that he returned for a score. That, folks, is what they call production. I’m not sure whether he profiles as a strong safety or free safety for Mike Elko, but I’d lean towards strong safety based on his solid run support ability.
An interesting twist here is that Notre Dame is reportedly seeking a waiver to let Gilman play immediately. The “hardship” argument is that he went to Navy with NFL aspirations, and the Department of Defense just updated their academy service requirement policy to nix exceptions for any reason. I don’t have a ton of confidence that it will work, but then again it’s a better reason than Amir Carlisle’s, so who knows.
Oh, and one other note – Gilman is Hawaiian, as evidenced by the header image here that Notre Dame sent him, and Polian was the lead recruiter on him. This guy…